Community order for meerkat keeper who glassed colleague at London Zoo party

Community order for meerkat keeper who glassed colleague at London Zoo party

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Llama drama

On 14 October 2015, Caroline Westlake was sentenced for assault by beating following a fracas at the ZSL London Zoo christmas party 2014.

What happened?

Well, we covered this a couple of weeks ago, but, in brief, this is what happened. Three members of staff at London Zoo were involved in something of a love triangle:

Caroline Westlake (meerkat enclosure) – defendant

Kate Sanders (monkey keeper) – victim

Adam Davies (llama keeper) – the love interest

It appears that Davies and Sanders had dated for five years but had recently split. Following the split, Davies had begun a relationship with Westlake. Sanders, it is reported, saw the couple together for the first time at the Christmas party – held at the zoo – and made a derisory comment about Westlake’s appearance. The comments resulted in an argument that led to an altercation resulting in Sanders being struck in the face with a wine glass, causing injuries requiring stitches.

Sanders said: “I was hit on the left cheek and from the feeling it was a glass and had come from a low position. I was extremely shocked when it hit me. I tried to protect myself by reaching out my right hand and pushing her against the nearest thing to me, which was some railings.”

She was left with a scar on her face which it appear is unlikely to disappear.

Westlake claimed that she had struck Sanders accidentally but that she did not remember doing so. She accepted that she may have “reacted with it in her hand due to her dyspraxia and ADHD”.

The offence

Westlake was charged with assault by beating – it’s not clear why this was not charged as s.47 (assault occasioning ABH) or s.20 (wounding/GBH). The injuries sustained would appear to suggest that an assault by beating charge was inappropriate and a classic case of undercharging by the CPS.

Putting that aside, Westlake pleaded not guilty to assault by beating but was convicted by magistrates.

Sentence and comment

ZSL imposed its own sentence: Westlake was also sacked from her position in the market enclosure. Sanders was banned from ZSL parties for two years. Westlake is understood to be suing the zoo for unfair dismissal.

The court imposed a 12-month community order along with an £800 compensation order to be paid to Sanders. Additionally, there was what was reported as an order for £200 prosecution costs. It’s not known what requirements were added on to the community order, but we presume there was an order for unpaid work or at the very least a supervision order.

The district judge commented: “It’s an unpleasant injury to someone’s face which makes it rather worse […] It was caused by a glass so an object was used so really a more serious charge against you could easily have been justified.”

Looking at the sentencing guidelines (see p.23), as we predicted in our earlier post, this was a category 1 offence which carries a starting point of a high level community order. My personal view is that this offence – on the facts we have identified from the news reports – could have justified a short custodial sentence. The offence was under-charged and while the DJ had to be careful to ensure he sentenced Westlake for the offence she had committed and not a more serious offence, the lasting injury and the use of the weapon (albeit it appears it was unintended) and the fact that alcohol was involved, raises the seriousness.

That said, a community order keeps her out of prison, enables her to continue working (or looking for work) and therefore enables her to pay the compensation order. Had she been sentenced to custody, there might have been an argument that the compensation order was impermissible on the basis that she would not be working and earning money whilst in prison and so she was of limited means.

5 COMMENTS

  1. The post originally stated that the court charge applied in the sum of £180, in error. Thanks to Darren Bishop and Daniel Benjamin for pointing out my mistake.

  2. I don’t understand why the DJ used such anodyne language about the undercharging.
    It is disgraceful that this happened, here, and CPS behaviour won’t change if benches don’t publicly name and shame the CPS over cases like this one.

  3. Are you going to blog about the fact that she was wrongfully convicted for holding a glass when Miss Sanders punched her in the face? Or that the cut was only 1cm long? Perhaps that’s why the judge was lenient with the sentencing because he could see an error in the conviction. Good news now that she has had an acquittal.

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